Diwali 2008: Four movie releases; no SRK; ho-hum hype

MUMBAI: This Diwali is unlike any other in recent years for the Hindi film industry. For starters, prior to this there haven’t been two release dates for Diwali. This year four movies are slated to release on 24 and 29 October. Releasing pre-Diwali on Friday, 24 October are Heroes and Roadside Romeo and during Diwali on Wednesday, 29 October are Golmaal Returns and Fashion.

Moreover, this year one will also not witness any clash of the titans a la Don – Jaan-E-Mann and Om Shanti Om – Saawariya unlike previous years. While Heroes is a patriotic movie with the Khan and Deol brothers; Roadside Romeo is an animation movie; Golmaal Returns is a multi starrer comic caper and Fashion sees Priyanka Chopra in a serious drama.

Low marketing buzz for Diwali releases vis-à-vis previous years

Walt Disney and Yash Raj Films’ Roadside Romeo, being an animated movie, has limited appeal and is releasing only in multiplexes. Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion, which has received an A certificate by the Censor Board, is a city centric movie with an actress as its protagonist and a novel story line. Golmaal Returns and Heroes have a wider appeal which will also reach out to single screens.

In 2007 and 2006 the choice during Diwali was between two movies as opposed to this year when the option has increased to four movies. Each movie is different from the other, but the question is how many movies can one see and that too during a Hindu festive weekend? Due to the screens that each movie will dominate across multiplexes is the audience also likely to be split?

Studio 18 director domestic theatrical distribution Aman Gill says, "From a consumers perspective there are many options to choose from this Diwali, as all four movies are of different genres catering to different tastes, so everyone will come to watch a movie of their choice and the audience will not get divided."

Pertinent to note here is that this year, marketing related activities and the hype around the festival releases is evidently low. Most actors whose films are releasing this Diwali, are busy shooting other movies and hence unavailable for promotional activities.

"Hype and buzz also depend on the kind of movies releasing, the stature of the movies this Diwali is not as high as last Diwali. Things would have been different if Chandni Chowk To China or Billu Barber were to release this Diwali. But the movies releasing this Diwali have an adequate visibility, enough to attract audience," says Percept Picture Company and P9 Integrated CEO Navin Shah.

Business Share at Box Office

There isn’t a pre-determined box office ‘badshah’ this time round and hence every movie has an equal opportunity to strike gold at the box office. However, this is an overtly optimistic way of looking at the situation. If one looks behind the curtains there are several bones of contention. To begin with, there is a race between each of the four movies to book better and bigger cinemas, get more screens, shows, revenue sharing terms, audience share and money.

Diwali releases in 2006 – Don and Jaan-E-Mann together grossed above Rs 1.50 billion (Rs 150 crores) at the box office. On the other hand, in 2007 Om Shanti Om and Saawariya together grossed over Rs 2 billion (Rs 200 crores) at the box office in the same period. However, it is debatable whether this Diwali will see the four films beating the previous year’s box office earnings. Notwithstanding this, some industry professionals opine that this year’s Diwali is bigger than last year’s and in fact the biggest thus far.

However some others are not as optimistic and believe that the four films will find it tough to rake in Rs 2.5 billion (Rs 250 crores) or even Rs 2 billion (Rs 200 cores) collectively at the box office.

Rajshri Productions marketing and distribution head P S Ramanathan says, "One really can’t say whether collectively these movies will do better business than last year’s movies. But out of the entire lot, Golmaal Returns and Fashion are looking good and should be able to do good business."

Keeping aside the life long run at the box office, if one considers the four movies’ first week business only; it is believed that they may be able to match the business of Om Shanti Om and Saawariya’s first week business of Rs 600 million (Rs 60 crores) net. This is primarily because Heroes and Roadside Romeo get a seven day week, whereas Golmaal Returns and Fashion have a nine day period because of their Wednesday release.

Shah Rukh Khan skips Diwali, Salman Khan is at it again

Diwali and a Shah Rukh Khan movie release have been synonymous with each other for the last couple of years. And when the reigning King of the Hindi film industry has a movie release, the hype and hoopla around the same is magnanimous to say the least.

In 2007 he triumphed at the box office with Om Shanti Om and in the previous year with Don. This year though, Khan is absent from the big screen during Diwali.

This year will also bring to screen many other names – Salman Khan, Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol, Ajay Devgan, Arshad Warsi, Tusshar Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Preity Zinta and many more. Moreover, companies such as Eros, Yash Raj Films, Walt Disney, Shree Ashtavinayak Cine Vision, Studio 18, UTV Motion Pictures and directors such as Madhur Bhandarhar, Rohit Shetty, Sameer Karnik and debutant Jugal Hansraj will also shine this Diwali.

"Earlier Shah Rukh’s movies swept away everything; he’s a one man army. However, this time there is an even ground and a great opportunity for other movies," opines PVR Film Cell CEO Ashish Saksena.

While Shah Rukh Khan will skip his Diwali run at the box office, Salman Khan’s will continue his sprint this Diwali as well. A producer on condition of anonymity quips, "This year is Salman’s fourth consecutive Diwali release, with Kyun Ki in 2005, Jaan-E-Mann in 2006, Saawariya in 2007 and now Heroes. Hope he is able to leave a mark at least this time."

Wait and watch whether this Diwali will prove lucky for Salman Khan, whether Roadside Romeo will change the way animation movies have been looked at until now, whether Golmaal Returns will cash in on its franchise and prove once again that comedy movies sell best or whether Fashion will certify once again that content is King.

On that note, Businessofcinema.com wishes its readers a Happy, Prosperous and Safe Diwali!

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